At SMART Reading, our mission is to spark joy and opportunity through the magic of a shared book. Although the 2020-21 school year will bring new challenges, we’re committed to continuing to deliver on our mission at a time when Oregon families need support more than ever. We’re poised to continue partnering with educators in order to boost literacy rates and inspire excited, confident young readers with our proven formula of providing 1) access to books for students to keep and 2) reading practice. 

In light of COVID-19, physical distancing requirements and limitations on non-essential volunteers in school buildings will make in-person reading and other aspects of our traditional delivery model impossible. Our statewide team has been planning and preparing for the year ahead, knowing many accommodations will be necessary to keep our students, staff and volunteers safe and healthy. 

To that end, we’re rolling out two programming adaptations this school year:



Book Distribution: 

Educators, researchers and families tell us that access to books is a crucial way we can support children’s literacy. 

We gave away 30,000+ books after schools closed in March, and we’re building upon what we learned to expand book distribution in 2020-21. 

As always, our students will have access to new, high-quality, diverse titles from a variety of book publishers that align with our guidelines.

  • Book giveaways for full classrooms (vs. only teacher-selected students)
  • Utilize technology to allow for student choice (e.g., provide access to video read-alouds of available titles) 
  • Offer flexibility around book selection and giveaway frequency to simplify logistics and reduce burden on educators
  • Complement book giveaways with shared reading experiences (e.g., pre-recorded or live read-alouds) and/or activities to provide practice and reinforce learning

Virtual Reading: 

We’re finalizing plans to provide virtual reading options for students and volunteers. 

While working on the implementation details, we’re also factoring in legalities and security considerations, and we’ve invited feedback along the way from educators and families. 

And rest assured, we’re committed to getting back to in-person reading as soon as we can safely do so.

  • Pre-recorded read alouds: Offered by teacher to a classroom of students or accessed by student at home
  • Live group read-alouds: SMART Reading volunteer invited into the classroom (virtually) to provide a live read-aloud
  • Live individual read-alouds: Student paired with volunteer for virtual one-on-one read aloud, either in school or at home. To address safety and security considerations, two volunteers will be matched with each student: one to provide reading engagement and support and one to offer supervision.

Timeline for Rollout: Specific timelines and program offerings will vary by site depending on the needs of our schools and site partners. Book distribution and some elements of virtual reading will begin in November. We expect live individual read-alouds will require additional time to implement and will roll out later in the winter.

Volunteer Engagement: Volunteers have always been the lifeblood of SMART Reading, and we’re working to ensure there are a variety of opportunities for volunteers to stay engaged with us over the course of the year.

While we will do our best to place all interested volunteers, opportunities will be more limited and will vary by region and site. We recognize that we may not have a role for everyone this year. We know that is hard news, and we look forward to getting back to in-person reading with all our amazing volunteers next year!

That being said, we are excited to offer a range of  volunteer roles in 2020-21, including:

  • Support with book distribution: scan books for virtual reading; sort, package and deliver books to local sites; assist with book inventory 
  • Participate as a Reader in a pre-recorded or live read-aloud session
  • Participate as a Reader in virtual student-volunteer reading sessions 
  • Join our “Tech Team” of volunteers who support virtual programming options
  • Take part in the SMART Pen Pal program by writing a notes to students
  • Become a Digital Ambassador and help support fundraising and awareness-building efforts

We also plan to continue engaging Volunteer Site Coordinators to fill a critical role as site liaison and help support both program adaptations.

Family Engagement

Engaging families in our work represents an extension of SMART Reading’s mission; by engaging parents, caregivers and children at home, we can multiply our impact by forming a circle of support around our students. We are developing a number of new activities in 2020-21  to engage parents and families (both those we serve and in general) by providing useful and accessible literacy resources. 

* We anticipate our plans will continue to evolve as the school year begins and we adapt to our changing circumstances.